The old harbour at Dubrovnik, Croatia

Game of Thrones fans will already know Dubrovnik even if they don’t realise it. Because despite hundreds of years of colourful – and at times, tragic – history, Dubrovnik is known to many people only as a well-used location for the HBO series. This new notoriety has only increased Dubrovnik’s allure, and the historic port is enjoying a renewed surge of visitors. Meanwhile, well-worn travellers and lovers of history are still attracted to Dubrovnik for more traditional reasons.


Split, Croatia

Croatia has become an incredibly popular travel destination in the last couple of decades, and few cities have embraced the change with as much gusto as the beautiful harbour-side city of Split. With its old Roman buildings, incredible scenery and stunning facilities, if you enjoy history, luxury and natural beauty, then Split should certainly be on your wishlist.


Sunset, Tanah Lot Temple, Bali

The Indonesian Island of Bali holds a special place for many young international travellers, especially those from Australia and New Zealand because of its proximity, but also for visitors from Europe. For many, Bali is almost a rite of passage. It can be a crazy, action-packed, fun-filled adventure, or a quiet relaxing escape. The choice is yours.

A short one and a half hour flight from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, or around five hours from the Western Australian capital of Perth, Bali is very accessible. The brand new international airport at Denpasar, Bali’s capital, is a world class gateway, and accommodation ranges from cheap (and sometimes dodgy) backpacker dorms, to luxurious, five star hotels. The locals are incredibly friendly and helpful, and the island itself is a paradise.

The Royal Temple of Mengwi, Bali

The Royal Temple of Mengwi, Bali

Bali is home to just 4.5 million of Indonesia’s massive 252 million people, but it often seems far more crowded than that, especially in Denpasar, where about 1 million people live. While Indonesia itself is predominantly muslim (about 90% of Indonesians are muslim), most Balinese (around 85%) are Hindu. In fact Bali hosts very nearly all of Indonesia’s Hindu population. Visitors will quickly see that religion is very important to the Balinese. There are Hindu temples, large and small, everywhere – in some areas several in every block – and many Balinese will devote a large amount of their waking hours and hard-earned income to their religion, often in preference to things like education.

This high-density living has another side-effect that often bemuses tourists. Bali is well-known for its wild, seemingly lawless traffic. Balinese love their scooters/mopeds/vespas, and they swarm like bees over the road. With helmets, without helmets, often with two, three or more passengers in addition to the driver. Teddy once saw an entire family of two adults and four children riding along on one scooter! There are no speed limits on the entire island, and there often appear to be no other road rules either – no giving way, no lanes (they’re painted, just completely ignored), and little regard for personal safety. You’ll also need to get used to the sound of car and scooter horns, which sometimes seem endless. A word of warning to tourists: most travel insurance companies will NOT cover you if you ride a scooter in Bali. Many will also not cover you if you drive a car. Check the fine print!

Sunrise over Nusa Penida, Bali

Sunrise over Nusa Penida, Bali

What do you look for when you holiday? History and culture? Got it. Nature and beautiful scenery? Check. Shopping and fine eating? No worries. Nightclubs and parties? Easy. Adventure and thrills? By the truckload. Clean beaches, spas and five star hotels? Tick. Perhaps that’s why Bali is so popular – it really does have something for everyone.

As a volcanic island, Bali is lush and green and the interior has amazing vistas and panoramas. The north of the island includes Mt Agung, an active volcano, and the largest peak on the island. Slightly to the west, Mt Batur is also an active volcano, but is uniquely situated within the caldera of a former volcano which is situated in the caldera of yet another former volcano. The former eruptions have left behind incredibly fertile soils, which explains why the interior is so lush, and also provides all the nutrients needed for the terraced rice paddies and other plantations. Several large rivers feed out to the coast, providing not only all the fresh water the Balinese farmers could wish for, but also beautiful, quiet valleys, and the potential for plenty of white-water sports.

Beautiful green farms, BaliAll around the island are dotted the various palaces and hangouts of the former kings and princes of the many minor kingdoms that ran the island over the centuries. They are a fascinating insight into the cultural heritage of the island and well worth visiting.

Surfers, party animals and those on a drinking holiday will probably spend most of their time in Kuta. The beaches are wide and white, and the surf is generally good. There are many bars and nightclubs to keep the party going, and lots of cheap accommodation. The Kuta market is usually on everyone’s to-do list, though it is hard to comprehend why. The merchandise is generally cheap, but none of it is genuine – there are no real big name brands, just cheap rip-offs. Even the goods that are supposed to be Balinese in nature (batik, carvings, jewellery and so on) are generally cheap imported imitations. If you’re after the real thing, best to wonder inland a little and get it from the source. As with most markets of this type, haggling and negotiation are expected. Never buy anything for the first price offered, as that is generally three or more times what they really expect you to end up paying. For those with more upmarket shopping requirements, Denpasar and Kuta both have a number of good shopping centres.

Dinner on Jimbaran Beach, Bali

Dinner on Jimbaran Beach, Bali

Eating in Bali is a treat. Most of the restaurants are good quality, especially in the tourist centres. Dinner on the beach at Jimbaran beach is on many visitor’s must-do lists. While the food is not as great as other eateries, the sunset is brilliant and makes for a stunning night out. Try out the coffee plantation tasters, too.

For those looking for a more relaxing, luxuriant holiday, there are spas aplenty. Many new hotels, eco-hotels and spas have opened in the Ubud region, many nestled in quiet valleys or overlooking the rivers. In the south of the island, many family-friendly five star hotels are clustered together in the Nusa Dua region. With a beach at the bottom of the garden, these hotels are very popular and well worth the extra few dollars. In particular, Teddy recommends the Grand Hyatt, The Ayodya Resort, the Mulia Resort and the St Regis.

Bali sunset

Bali sunset

Bali isn’t all good news, however. While the safety issue around traffic has already been covered, there are also safety issues with some tourist attractions. Beware of some of the powered craft sports, bungee jumping and similar, which are effectively unregulated. Beware also of scammers. There are fake competitions, raffles and the like which are all just cons to get you into things like high-pressure time-share sales offices. Large parts of the island, especially in the heavily populated south, are dirty and covered in trash and litter. It seems no one there cares enough to pick up the rubbish, so it lies and rots in piles on the side of the road. Everywhere. And Teddy has never seen so many abandoned, half-built buildings.

None of that is to say that Bali is should not be high on your list of potential holiday destinations. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Just be mindful, and exercise caution and good judgement.

Lately, flights to and from Bali have been unpredictable, as volcanic eruptions on other nearby islands lead airlines to cancel flights. Consult your agent and airline.


Things to watch out for in Turkey

While Turkey has much to offer the international tourist, there are a few things the first time traveller should be aware of. In some cases this is just because Turkish people traditionally have a different way of doing things, but in others … Well …

It goes without saying that Turkey is currently not a very safe place to be. Whether that’s due to its geographic proximity to major trouble spots, its internal issues, or its current political policies is not a discussion for Teddy’s site. Southern Turkey, especially close to the southern border, is the most dangerous, for obvious reasons. However, both Istanbul and Ankara have had problems with terrorism attacks in recent years. Take your government’s travel advice before considering travelling to Turkey, and – once there – remain vigilant and aware.

Driving in Turkish cities is not for the faint hearted, or for those who expect everyone to follow the rules. Delivery vans will suddenly stop in narrow streets to drop off or pick up, motorcycles and scooters dart dangerously between cars or cruise down the footpath, pedestrian crossings are ignored, and lane markings, traffic lights and other signs are suggestions only. Turkish drivers seem to think that their horns possess some magical ability to make other cars in the same traffic jam move out of the way, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Pedestrians cross in front of moving traffic and against the lights with little regard. Either leave the driving to someone else, or make sure you take out full insurance with no excess.

Having said that, Teddy has heard some really bad tales about Turkish taxi drivers. You only need to look at the condition of some of their vehicles or watch them in action to get an idea of their driving skills, but they also have a reputation for ripping tourists off. If your travel agent can arrange transfers or a private driver, that is the preferred option.

Turkish shop keepers in tourist areas, especially market stalls, can be incredibly persistent – sometimes to the point of being rudely pushy. They do it with a smile, and are always friendly, but their dogged persistence to get you to buy gets tiring very quickly. Be prepared to say ‘no’ a lot – you need to be just as persistent (though still polite) as them. Most of their trinkets and souvenirs are ridiculously over-priced, and you should be prepared to negotiate strongly. Don’t be intimidated, don’t feel pressured, and be prepared to walk away. You will hear the same well used scripts over and over (“Where are you from?”, “I just want you to look”, “first business of the day”) and you need to be firm. Many store keepers will appear very friendly (even over friendly, or even over familiar), and they are generally always polite, but don’t be sucked in and feel obliged because of this.

This also applies to restaurants. Most food in Turkey is excellent, but those restaurants geared to the tourist market are always over-priced. You will always find the same, or better, food in non-tourist cafes and restaurants, but at almost half the price. Look to see where the locals are eating.

Turkish businesses seem to operate on a purely cash basis. In addition to Turkish Lira many will also take Euros, and some will take US dollars (and they will often be able to quote in all three currencies), but they will all complain if you try to pay by credit card or EFTPOS, or just plain refuse to accept them. Fortunately there are normally plenty of ATMs around.

Stay well clear of carpet sellers. Never buy a Turkish carpet in Turkey unless you know the dealer to be trustworthy. Teddy has heard too many tales of rip offs – including offers to ship the carpet to your country for you (it never arrives). It’s unfortunate that the unscrupulous and greedy traders have destroyed the entire industry’s reputation, but until the situation is fixed up and the dodgy operators removed, you’d be best to just stay clear. If you want to buy carpets, try some of the community co-op manufacturers. Not only are they more reputable, but you can see the carpets being made by hand.

Negotiating, or haggling, is expected in markets (or bazaars). Prices are rarely marked, especially in the markets, and the first price quoted is always more than twice what they’ll be happy to settle for. You’ll hear stories of woe and heart wrenching cries, but it’s all part of the game. The few items Teddy bought at markets were always bought at well less than half the first quoted price. Other retailers in tourist areas are also heavily inflated and you’d be well advised to look outside of the tourist precincts if shopping (and good eating) is what you want. There are no genuine bargains to be had in the tourist spots.

Street sellers can also be a bit confronting. Streets in large towns or near major tourist attractions are generally packed with people selling everything from children’s toys to jackets, luggage and larger items. They can be very pushy, but will normally leave you alone if you just say no and walk away. Again, don’t pay what they quote you at first – you will generally get it for much less. Better yet, just ignore them if you can.

Stray cats and dogs are everywhere. No, really – everywhere! They are not dangerous, and don’t appear to be disease ridden. The Turkish people just seem content to allow them to wander as they will, which they in turn are quite happy to do. Don’t feed them, just do your best to ignore them.

Turkish hotels tend to over-rate themselves and charge accordingly. Alway take at least half a star, often a full star, off any Turkish hotel rating. If a hotel advertises itself as four star, and charges as if it were, assume it is three star. Many hotels that look great on the websites are less than ideal in reality. Rooms are mostly smaller than international standards, furniture and fittings are often tired and worn, beds and pillows are not always comfortable. Nevertheless, they always seem to be very expensive, charging as if they were as good as they think they are. Teddy’s advice is to only look at hotels at least a star above what you would normally book and be prepared to pay through the nose for it. Or lower your expectations on what you will receive for your money. Or do your research thoroughly, reading third-party reviews, not the hotel websites themselves. Be wary also of what the hotels charge for simple things like drinks at the bar, as you will normally find yourself paying twice what you would pay back home. Head outside and buy your drink from a local vendor.

Turkish travel agents have a different definition of what constitutes a “ticket”. Because you only need a ticket number and a passport to board a plane, and not an actual ticket, agents will give you an itinerary and call it your tickets. This is fine, and there is no need to ask them for actual tickets.

Istanbul international airport (Ataturk) is broken. There is no simpler way to put it. All other airports in Turkey seem to operate smoothly and efficiently, but they also have to pay the price for Istanbul airport’s bad management and poor resources. Such a busy airport, with so many arrivals and departures, seems woefully short on infrastructure, facilities and good organisation. Constant delays, long queues of planes waiting to take off, poor weather or runway backlogs forcing arriving planes to circle for long periods … All of this has a domino effect on the rest of the country’s air traffic. Teddy waited on the Istanbul airport tarmac for about forty-five minutes waiting in line to take off. At Kayceri airport, Teddy’s plane left an hour late because it had been late arriving from Istanbul.

Turkish service or hospitality providers also have a tendency to either not pay full attention to your requests, or not pay attention to detail when providing your service. Teddy personally experienced all of the following:

  • Being transferred to the wrong hotel
  • Being given a different massage to the one ordered
  • Not receiving a dish that was ordered, and then being charged twice for it when asking where it was
  • Being charged twice for a prepaid hotel room (though Expedia had a hand in that mistake too)
  • Hotels failing to deliver messages or important documents they’ve received for you

Please don’t take all of this to mean Turkey is a lost cause for the tourist. The people are generally very friendly and Teddy found many examples where they were keen to help with no expectation of reward. Professional guides are well educated and knowledgable. The government is pushing and supporting local small businesses that create and promote genuine traditional Turkish crafts and products.

Turkey wants to promote itself as a major tourist attraction, and to be fair, the country has much to offer. But if Teddy’s experience is anything to go by, then there is some little way to go yet before the country can be said to be as open, accommodating and welcoming to foreign tourists as other tourism-dependent nations.

Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris

One of the oldest, grandest and most famous cathedrals in the world, Notre-Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris”) recently celebrated it’s 850th birthday, and has been a pivotal element of the character of Paris throughout its history. Situated on the Île de la Cité, arguably the oldest part of Paris with a history of settlement going back to the 2nd century BC, construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 and the building replaced an even older cathedral that dated from the 4th century.

The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Hermitage, St Petersburg

One of the oldest and largest museums in the world, The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is also one of the grandest and most opulent palace complexes in the world. From its beginnings in 1764 as the private collection of Catherine the Great, The Hermitage now houses more than three million items, including the world’s largest collection of oil paintings.

Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace, Pushkinskiy

One of the grandest royal residences in the world, the Catherine Palace is a stunning reminder of the pomp and grandeur of the Russian Romanov dynasty. Almost completely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, over more than fifty years it was stunningly and authentically restored to all its former glory.



One of the most fairytale-like villages in the Gorges du Tarn would have to be Saint-Chely-du-Tarn. Nestled on the steep banks of the Tarn river in southern France, clinging onto and between the rocky outcrops of the gorge, Saint-Chely-du-Tarn has all the charm and melancholy of a French village hundreds of years old with all the modern amenities required by the modern tourist.

Gorges du Tarn, southern France

Gorges du Tarn

If a quiet afternoon drive in southern France, exploring a peaceful, winding river through a stunning natural gorge sounds like your idea of a relaxing break, then then Gorges du Tarn may just be the ticket. For those with an historical bent, there are countless ruins to see, including castles, villas, and other buildings. For those that prefer to get a little more physical, the Gorges du Tarn is one of the most popular places in France for hiking, kayaking, climbing and abseiling.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Some of the best reminders of the scope, grandeur and brilliance of the Roman Empire are in France, and the Pont du Gard (Bridge of the Gard) is one of the best (and most intact) remaining examples of Roman architectural engineering anywhere in the world.

Paris – The Latin Quarter


Quartier latin, or the Latin Quarter, is one of the oldest parts of Paris and is probably the area with the most physical reminders of its rich and illustrious past. Located on the left bank of the Seine and occupying most of the Fifth Arrondissement around the renowned University of Paris,  the Latin Quarter can trace its origins back to the earliest days of the city of Paris.

Pont Ambroix

Pont Ambroix

About half way between Nimes and Montpellier in southern France is the old Roman fortified town of Ambrussum, which today is an archeological site in the middle of French farmland. A mere one hundred metres east of the northern end of the fortified wall lie the remains of Pont Ambroix – an arched Roman bridge across the small Vidourle River.



Of all the medieval and fortified towns throughout southern Europe, the Languedoc town of Carcassonne is easily one of the most famous. While officially founded in the fifth century there remains evidence of Roman occupation even now under the main buildings. Recalled for its pivotal role in the Albigensian crusades and the history of the Cathars, today the old fortified town is one of the biggest and most unique tourist drawcards in France.

Monet’s Garden, Giverny

Not many people could claim to have arguably the most famous garden in the world, but one look at the idyllic lily pond and you know you recognise this scene. You can thank the brilliant French impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926), who not only painted this gorgeous garden scores of times, but  also built the garden very nearly from nothing.


When Captain Arthur Phillip explored the harbour that James Cook had named Port Jackson, he described it as “the finest harbour in the world”. So impressed was he that he ordered the rest of the first fleet and all the convicts to leave Botany Bay and establish their new British colony inside this massive harbour at a small bay he named Sydney Cove. Phillip’s decision was a wise one, the harbour being so fine that the new colony thrived and in the short space of a little over 220 years grew to become to cosmopolitan city known as Sydney, Australia. And every visitor to the modern city can only agree wholeheartedly with Phillip’s description.



Thirty kilometres north-west (as the crow flies) of Montpellier, nestled between two rocky ridges deep in the Hérault Gorges alongside the Verdus stream, rests one of the oldest, most picturesque French villages: Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. It can take a little getting to, but with more than twelve centuries of history, including a UNESCO world-heritage listed abbey, this quaint little village is a must-see for any student (or just admirer) of medieval French or european history.



When it comes to small, mostly intact hilltop medieval villages in France, there are a handful (like St Paul de Vence) that grab all the glory, all the headlines, and the lion’s share of visitors. Then there are the equally impressive, but less recognised and less visited villages. Tourettes-sur-Loup fits quietly, and quite comfortably,  into that second category.


St Tropez

Got a yacht larger than most peoples’ neighbourhoods? Earn more per hour than the annual GDP of a small country? Got so much money in so many banks that you don’t even know how much you have? Then chances are you’ve already been to Saint-Tropez.


Hotel Majestic, Cannes

The seaside resort city of Cannes is world famous for two things: its iconic movie festival and its sandy mediterranean beaches. It’s really only because of those two things that the big retail labels, the big Casino and the luxury apartments followed. And even though it was a beautiful, sunny, summers day when Teddy visited, Teddy was left wondering what Cannes would have to offer without either of those two items.

St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

Amongst the many acclaimed medieval hill-top walled villages in southern France, St Paul de Vence enjoys an esteemed place. Increasingly popular not only amongst international travellers, this quaint and mostly intact stone settlement is also adoringly frequented by the natives of south-east France. Today it is the most visited medieval village in France.

Villa Adriana

Emperor Hadrian had it good. The Roman Empire was at its peak, he was the boss, and he could do what he wanted with all those riches – no one would or could argue. What he chose to do was to build the biggest and baddest holiday house the world has ever seen. Thus was born Villa Adriana – or Hadrian’s Villa.

Greve in Chianti

Greve in Chianti

You know those Tuscan villages you read and dream about, the ones with a village piazza right out of the pages of a romantic novel? Greve is one of those villages, the  of the wine-growing region of Chianti (between Florence and Sienna), and host of Chianti’s largest wine fair.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

If you’re touring through Tuscany, it’s likely that you’re doing so because you’re interested in either Italian food and wine or Italian history. You can enjoy a fantastic example of both in the UNESCO World Architectural Heritage listed medieval village of San Gimignano.


One of the master glass blowers in Murano

There are several islands in the Venetian lagoon, and probably the second most popular (after Venice itself) is Murano – the historical home of the world-famous Venetian glass-blowing industry.


The columns of a rich merchant's atrium

Pompeii is one of those very, very special destinations. It’s not the only archeological dig in the world that ordinary people can walk through, but it is one of the very few such places where you can really feel a part of the ancient city, and understand the lives and suffering of its last inhabitants.



Ah, Rome – the eternal city! While it is certainly one of the busiest and loudest cities in the world,  thousands of years on Rome continues to maintain its eternal charm and wonder. For those interested in classical architecture and history, there are countless things to fill your time. For everyone else there is the fashion, the food, the people and the mediterranean sunshine!


The Ponte Vecchio

If Leonardo himself had wanted to design the most romantic, beautiful example of renaissance italy, he could have done no better than the magical city of Florence. For the modern traveller, Florence is both a journey back in time to a more attractive age, and ideal modern metropolis to be your base of operations for exploring Tuscany.


Gondolas on the Grand Canal

With a reputation for being the world’s most romantic city, Venice has a lot to live up to. Maybe it’s because of those high expectations that some visitors report disappointment. But as far as Teddy is concerned, Venice is one of the most magical cities in the world.